let your unconscious do the work

I’ve been trying to take a page from Jennifer Egan’s book lately and allow my unconscious do the work.

This means writing by hand, following characters where they want to go. I wrote a scene this morning I thought was going to end with a character forcing their way onstage to perform at a bar. But when the moment arrived, the character was too anxious, too nervous to perform. I was able to let go of my idea and allow the story to unfold the way it wanted. What happens might change, but for now I’m letting it all come naturally.

It’s a matter of trusting the process instead of focusing on the result.

A recent example of how powerful the result can be when you prioritize the process: I was tinkering with collages recently and found an image of a father and son I fell in love with. I wound up using the image in a piece with a bridge, the idea being that fatherhood is the process of guiding your child through the twists and turns of living.

I sent it to my dad as an early Father’s Day gift, only to have him weep when he saw it. He reminded me of a story I’d forgotten. When he was a kid, his father had been an engineer who built bridges. One afternoon, they stopped at a gorge overlooking a bridge his father had designed and watched as a train passed. My dad asked what they were doing. His father responded, “Watching my bridge work.”

I’d completely forgotten this story. It was buried someplace deep in my unconscious, only to appear in the artwork crafted for my dad. A piece like this is something I never could have created on purpose.

Sometimes, the miracles happen only because we’re not paying attention.